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Sundance Short Film Winners - clues to *next" year's Oscar list?

by Nathaniel R

Sheila Vand at SundanceWe hope you've been enjoying our coverage of Sundance this year. Our two men on the ground (Murtada and Abe) have already reviewed 10 films. Sundance wraps up next Sunday, February 3rd but we've already got our first bit of award news. A three person jury comprised of Iranian-American actress Sheila Vand (We the Animals, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Obie award-winning playwright/filmmaker Young Jean Lee, and filmmaker Carter Smith (who won at Sundance 12 years ago for his gay short Bugcrush), have picked the winning shorts of the festival. Six of the seven films honored were by people of color, five were from women, and two from filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ. (Yes, Sundance has made huge diversity efforts these past few years... and they've put their money where their mouth is, both in their film selections and in press badges, even subsidizing minority journalists to combat the inequities in entertainment journalism).

Sundance is an Oscar-qualifying festival which means you might hear about a few of these shorts next year about this time if they're very lucky...

HOW DO SHORTS QUALIFYING FOR OSCAR, YOU ASK? Usually around 100 films (give or take 40 in either director, haha) end up qualifying for each shorts category at the Oscars and to qualify you either have to have a 7 day theatrical release (extremely rare for shorts), or you have to win gold, silver or bronze at the Student Academy Awards (a lot of shorts emerge from filmmaking schools each year), OR you have to win one of 158 qualifying awards at various Academy-approved festivals. We've underlined the awards below which are "Oscar qualifying" because these films are now (presumably) in the mix for next year's longlist with Oscar...

Here are the seven winners from the press release:

Aziza (Syria/Lebanon) 13 minutes

Short Film Grand Jury Prize: Aziza (Director: Soudade Kaadan, Screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan, May Hayek) A dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees, told through black comedy.

Note: Recent winners of this prize to go on to future glories were World of Tomorrow (2015 Oscar nominee) and Whiplash (2013... which became an Oscar winning feature in 2015) and Short Term 12 (2009... which became an award-winning feature in 2013)

Green (USA) 12 minutes

Short Film Jury Award: U.S. FictionGreen (Director: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Screenwriters: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Mustafa Kaymak)
Green, an undocumented Turkish pedicab driver, unwittingly draws police attention, endangering his brother, his community, and himself.

Note: Recent winner of this prize to go on to further glory was SMILF (2015... which became the Showtime series)

Dunya's Day (Saudi Arabia/USA) 14 minutes

Short Film Jury Award: International FictionDunya's Day (Director and screenwriter: Raed Alsemari)
Abandoned by her domestic help, Dunya fights to throw the perfect graduation soirée.

Note: Recent winner of this prize to go on to future awards glory was Maman's (2016 César Award)

Reneepoptosis (Japan/USA) 10 minutes

Short Film Jury Award: AnimationReneepoptosis (Director and screenwriter: Renee Zhan)
Three Renees go on a quest to find God, who is also Renee. As they traverse the mountains and valleys of Renee, they discover all the great joys, sorrows, and mysteries of being Renee. 

Note: Recent winner of this prize to go on to future awards glory was Edmond (2015 BAFTA winner)

Ghosts of Sugar Land. (USA) 21 minutes

Short Film Jury Award: Non-fictionGhosts of Sugar Land (Director: Bassam Tariq)
In Sugar Land, Texas, a group of young Muslim-American men ponder the disappearance of their friend “Mark,” who is suspected of joining ISIS. 

NOTE: Before you ask, no, we don't understand why "Jury Award Non-Fiction" isn't one of those qualifying prizes since all the other (non-special) jury awards are. Must be something complicated with Sundance and Oscar's Documentary branch? 

Fast Horse (Canada) 13 minutes

Special Jury Award for DirectingFast Horse (Director and screenwriter: Alexandra Lazarowich)
The Blackfoot bareback horse-racing tradition returns in the astonishingly dangerous Indian Relay. Siksika horseman Allison Red Crow struggles with second-hand horses and a new jockey on his way to challenge the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy.

The Minors (USA) 10 minutes

Special Jury Award for DirectingThe Minors (Director and screenwriter: Robert Machoian)
A slice of life about a grandpa and his grandsons, the future and the past. 

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Reader Comments (8)

I'm really enjoying the coverage!

Nathaniel, you haven't said a thing about the Oscars giving Best Cinematography off the air. Is it because you don't believe the news or because you do and you're doing tequila shots* right now to cope with it?

*I did in a very Joanna Kulig fashion

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue -- i just dont want to be typing out a tragic essay every day because we will only get more of these rumors as we approach the ceremony. right now i'm fearing the absolute worst and I do believe their short sighted running from their own institutional traditions could well FINALLY make the Oscars irrelevant. Something they've never been despite all the internet silliness each year about how they are. the question is: if you stop being yourself, who are you? And if you stop being yourself of 90 years that people have been invested in for decades, who will care when you're 91?

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oh, I read your tweets!

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Dude, where was your coverage of Sundance Shorts winners last year! There was at least one winner who would've loved to see their work mentioned on this site haha

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Goran -- and who would that have been?

January 31, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The International Short Prize winner ;)

Incidentally Fauve - which is excellent - won one of the special jury prizes last year, and is one of the Narrative Short Oscar nominees now. My bet to win - though this category is never predictable obviously

January 31, 2019 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Goran -- what what? omg. congrats. I must confess/remind that last January was the second hardest month of my life so it's a miracle there was any posting at all herein. I was couch-surfing after a terrible breakup and was super sick and feverish all month, too. Good times.

January 31, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oh Nathaniel I was completely kidding! haha I wouldn't've expected coverage

In fact it is very cool that you're not only covering the shorts this year but actually engaging with them beyond just listing the titles - most places dont do that

And ugh i'm so sorry to hear about your January - hope everything has improved since then? But also what a testament to you that even through something like that you kept the blog running regularly and without any drop in quality. Definitely cause for pride xo

January 31, 2019 | Unregistered Commentergoran

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